Thursday, 4 October 2012

Is life about seeking happiness or embracing life's inevitable challenges?

Without a doubt, my life has procured an innumerable amount happy times. Times filled with smiles and giggles and the excited squeals of childhood birthday parties.  Times filled with warmth and nurture and the encouragement of educators and mentors. Times I lock away as if  precious jewels, in my vault of memory, so as never to lose them. Yet it is often very hard to find the key to this vault, and to the positive times I describe, when your mind is polluted by a haze of mental illness.

I earnestly try to recreate these happy times each and every day, only to become compounded with distress as my life fails to reproduce them, fails to provide the embrace of contentment they produce, leaving in their place an empty, hopeless void of distress.

Have I got it all wrong though? Am I chasing the wrong thing? Am I casting shadows on my immense intrinsic power by seeking to recreate happy times?

Tonight I am lying in my bed eating frozen blueberries to tolerate the distress I am experiencing. Savoring the bitter coldness in an attempt to survive the moment. I am not enjoying the warmth of those happier times. I am frozen in the chill of distress. I can't see where my life is leading or fathom as to why I should keep trying.  Something is not right about my pursuit of happiness, and I think I am beginning to understand why.

Implicit in the phrase of 'overcoming an adversity' such as mental illness is; that success or happiness is about emerging on the other side of a challenging experience unscathed, unmarked by the experience. As if successes in life have come about because of an ability to side step, or circumnavigate presumed pitfalls of a life with mental illness.

But I am marked, I am changed, of course, by a challenge. I am starting to think that adversity needn't be an obstacle I need to get over in order to resume living a happy life. It's part of our life, part of who I am as a holistic being. I tend to think of it as a shadow, sometimes I see a lot of it, sometimes there is very little, but it is always with us. 

Now, in no way am I trying to diminish the impact, the weight of a persons struggle. What I am trying to say is that there is always going to be adversity and challenge in life. Its very real and relative to every single person. The question is not whether you are going to meet adversity, but HOW you are going to meet it. 

So the responsibility is not simply to be shielded from the adversities and challenges we face, but to prepare us to meet it well. We do a disservice to each other when we make others feel like they are not equipped to adapt. There is an important difference and distinction between the objective medical fact of psychiatry and the subjective societal opinion of whether or not we are are mentally unwell. But in reality the only real and consistent adversity I face is the world ever thinking that I can be described as disabled or unable to contribute to society.

In our desire to protect those we care about by giving them the cold hard truth about their medical prognosis, or indeed the prognosis of the excepted quality of their life, we have to make sure we don't put the first brick in a wall that will actually disable someone. Perhaps the existing model of 'what is wrong with you and how do we fix it!' serves to be more disabling to the individual than the pathology itself. By not treating the wholeness of a person, by not acknowledging their potency, we are creating another 'illness' on top whatever natural struggle they might have. We are affectingly grading someones worth to our community. We need to see through the pathology and into the range of human capability. And most importantly, there is a partnership between those perceived deficiencies and the great human creative ability. 

So its not about devaluing or negating these trying times we want to avoid or sweep under the carpet, but instead to find those opportunities wrapped in the adversity. The idea I want to put out there is not so much overcoming adversity as it is opening ourselfs up to it, embracing it, grappling with it as Katie Taylor would do in the boxing ring, maybe even dancing with it. And perhaps if we see adversity as natural, consistent and useful, we are less burdened by the presence of it. 

In my own experience, adversity is simply change, to which I have not yet adapted, and the greatest adversity we have created for ourselfs is the idea of normalcy. I mean, who here believes them self to be normal? There is no normal. There is 'common' and typical, there is no normal.would you want to meet that poor beige person if they existed? I dont think so.

If we can change this para-dime of achieving normalcy, to one of possibility or potency, we can release the power of so many people and invite them to engage their rare and valuable assists with the community.   

1 comment:

  1. Andy, this is beautiful and thoughtful, what you write here. I have a little painting, that I bought in a thrift shop, that says: "THINK AND BE THANKFUL". I love it, because it reminds me how hard it can be to think about things - such as what you describe in this post. One wishes to dis-engage from the pain, and simply, run.....Yes, that is a choice for us all. So often I chose to run to food and binging. And I still think about 'running away', every day. Life has so many waves, as if we were looking at the ocean, down by the sea, washing over us, and over us again........I am so grateful for YOU, Andy, and for your willingness to engage, and think, and persevere. Sometimes that is a hourly and painfully difficult thing. Let us look forward, with courage and hope! Blessings!